Is the Government’s Poverty Measure Too Simplistic?

You know from reading Chapter 4 on Conceptualization and Measurement (in ISW8) that the U.S. government’s official measure of poverty is based on a standard developed by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration 50 years ago. At that time, an average household spent about one third of their income on food and Orshansky used this as a basis of “absolute” concept of poverty: not having enough money for food.

But now the average person spends much more on housing and transportation; food accounts for only 6% of the budget. A new Supplemental Poverty Measure developed by the Census Bureau takes into account a broader mix of expenses. This measure identifies fewer children as poor in the U.S. and more elderly persons as poor.

Does this new approach seem better to you? Some researchers argue that it still misses the point, because poverty is not simply a shortage of resources but a multidimensional state that affects many aspects of life. An Oxford University researcher says that “the shame and stigma is as bad as the deprivation” for teens in poor neighborhoods.

You can read more about the controversy at:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/03/01/who-poor-depends-how-you-measure/4vOmSO6V4p803VZQW9yryH/story.html

This article reminds us that, as University of Chicago economist Bruce D. Meyer says, “poverty measures are very political.”

Which approach to measuring poverty makes the most sense to you? Do you favor a single standard or a multidimensional indicator? Do you conceptualize poverty based on an absolute, relative, or subjective standard (see ISW8, chapter 4, pp. 105-106)? Do you agree that measurement is political?

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Chapter 4, Chapter 9, Investigating the Social World 8e Chapters and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s